C_Vallion

1.11.2021 - C_Vallion - Price of Peace: Prologue Rev1 (mild LG) - 4498 words

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Hi again!

This is the prologue to my epic fantasy, Price of Peace (filler title, but functional for now). It contains mild language and gore.

Thanks to all of those who were able to read through the initial version of this last week, especially because of how painfully confusing parts of it were for anyone who doesn’t already know where things are going. *facepalm*

I cut out a lot of the unnecessary rubble moving and vague political allusions, moved key information earlier, and improved our character definition (which bumped the word count up again, unfortunately).

I’m looking for the following on this one (though, honestly, I’m still figuring out what sorts of feedback to ask for, so if there are things that seem to need saying, have at it):

1. Are the political details, magic, and physical layout of the scene clear?  I think I fixed all of the big things, and tried to spread out the name introductions to be less overwhelming, but it’s so hard to read through from a new-reader perspective.

2. Are there things that still seem to be missing?  Either for clarity’s sake, or just as a general story introduction?  

3. What spots could be streamlined or trimmed back? (Always point these out.  I am horrible at cutting back text, and I like rabbit trails.  These are both significant problems when one of my main goals for this round of revisions on the full manuscript is a major wordcount reduction).

Once we’re a few chapters in, I’ll want feedback on whether it seems like the prologue is necessary as it is, or if it should be something different, but I don’t think it makes sense to address that quite yet.

Thanks so much!  I really appreciate all of your feedback!

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I actually got to take a sneak peek at this submission over the weekend, but I know the beginning changed ever so slightly. So keep that in mind while reading my old notes.

Thoughts as I went:

Pg 1, “But none of them had been prepared” Who knew babies could be so powerful? What are we birthing, a god?

Pg 2, “from whatever had destroyed the walls” So it wasn’t the baby?

Pg 2, “forearm where there had been two an hour before” Hmmm, I don’t think that this is some magical version of a wedding ring.

So it doesn’t appear T is the father like I first assumed, which makes me wonder who he is. A guard? Advisor?

Pg 2, ”the blast of magic” Being the thing that took down the wall, I would assume? 

If T dislikes the duke so much, why is he trying to save him? Where does his loyalty lie? It doesn’t appear that he once loved M, and is trying to save B for her. 

Pg 4, “he’d often thought unbecoming of a proper duke” I’m imagining T as a middle aged slight stick-in-the-mud. I think he’s an advisor but not sure?

Not sure how B didn’t suffocate before T came in? 

Pg 6, “Hello?” There are a lot of characters introduced in such a short time. We’re up to six named characters in six pages, I think? 

Pg 7, “What must it be like to have a...vow of marriage severed?” Does this mean M is dead? Was that the first of T’s marks to disappear? His oath to the duchess?

Pg 8, “B was too cautious” This seems contradictory to the care-free character he’s been hinted to be before. 

I think you explain well, I think the struggle I’m having is with how much information gets dumped on me at once. It feels like every other paragraph is something new, and I’m struggling to absorb it all. My brain is so busy trying to catalog everything that I can’t feel the tension. 

You obviously have a lot planned for this story, and I’m excited. I don’t know what T’s role is yet, but I want to see what happens to poor A once his father finally dies. T seems very honorable, helping a man and feeling sympathetic towards him even though B is a mage. Looks like there will be quite a bit of magic, conflict, and politics, so I’m pumped. 

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Okay, I am making notes as I read this time (since this is my second peek at this prologue).

 

Page one comments:

 

First thoughts are that the opening line is better. I picture Tr as someone a bit portly, getting out of breath going up stairs and having to cling to the banister. There is a bit of alliteration in the opening line (this doesn’t bother me, personally but I thought to point it out in case it is something that bothers you “stopped short… stairs). I also think “stopped short” reads a bit clunky. What stopped him short? Being out of breath? Exhaustion? Usually one doesn’t stop short from exhaustion but kinda slows down or stumbles. But this is an Uber nit pick for sure. 

 

Grammar time: Past perfect simple tense is used a bit here. Not sure how much of a grammar person you are (I use to be able to expertly diagram a sentence but am more than 15 years out from my last college grammar and syntax class and thus incredibly rusty-  but I dug out my books because I’m not sure the tense is being used correctly here in multiple instances.

 

First an explanation: past perfect simple tense- 

  • the past part is easy “had” is the past tense of “to have”
  • perfect means the action was completed in the past- meaning it is not continuing to happen
  • simple means the type of verb you use (I think… this part is hazy, but go with me here.)
  • In more simple terms it is “had” + past participle (verb with “ed” ending). It is used to show an action that was completed before some other action. IE: “By the time I was 12, I had read all the books in the library.”

 

So now that I brushed up on my grammar, anyways, I’m going to delve into your usage of the past perfect simple tense (because on this reading it really stood out to me as possibly misused.)

 

“The midwife had warned them that morning to prepare for the worst.”

- “had warned” but warned them before what? I think this sentence can be quickly fixed by changing the tense to get rid of the “perfect” bit and go with “The midwife warned them…”

 

“An ominous tingling had wrapped itself around his forearm there just as the wall came down.”

  • Here we have “had wrapped” but “just as the wall came down” which I took to mean at the same time, not before. And “had wrapped” by its tense signifies something that happens before something else. Again, quickest fix would be to get rid of the perfect tense and just go with “wrapped”.
  • Also in this sentence is some odd wording with “his forearm there just”. I feel like instead of “there” you need a comma (but since the bit after just is an dependent clause, I’m not sure if you even need a comma- commas and the rules around them are a weakness of mine for sure.) Perhaps try” An ominous tingling wrapped around his forearm as the wall came down.” Cut out some words that were not necessary to understanding. All this is an uber nit pick and I feel like my nerd is showing…

 

Third and final examples (there are more but I feel like if this bothers you, you can go on a past perfect simple tense hunt and irradiate any grammatically wrong usage- as with many tense things, it really depends on what you were trying to say as far as what happens in relation to something else.)

“But the walls had stopped shaking, and the thunder of falling stone had stopped echoing off of the mountains that surrounded the castle.”

  • Had stopped” is used twice and in neither case is there another verb for them to have happened before. Again, quick fix: get rid of “had” in both cases or just one to signify that “had X” happened before the other verb. 

 

Now, to backtrack a bit: in the second paragraph “He took a breath and hurried down the hall…” Nothing wrong with this but I feel that “hurried” could be replaced with something a bit less ambiguous. Is he walking quickly? Stumbling? Dashing? Also, his breathing is talked about in the first sentence so it feels repetitive here- if you are really looking at ways to cut the wording down. 

 

“sunlight pouring down”

  • This still suggests ceiling for me, so when wall is stated later it is a bit unsettling. Perhaps change “poured down” to “pierced through” or some such. “Tr found” also feels a bit clunky in this sentence. It could be removed if it bothers you or others and the verb in the second half of the sentence changed up a bit to make it stand on it’s own without the “Tr found” part. 

 

 

“He squinted against reflected sunlight, trying to understand, and searching for some sign of what had happened to his master.”

  • How does he know something happened to his master and not his mistress- I’m assuming he is referring to the tingling here. At this point he doesn’t know where his master is- he could be in the ball of ice, right?
  • I also feel like this could be a good place to slip in that the sphere is made of ice, ie: He squinted against the sunlight reflected off of the icy sphere…. or some such.

 

Another big nit pick as there is nothing grammatically wrong with this sentence:

“One of the joists overhead had given way and caught where the sphere met the plane of the far wall, a little below the ceiling.  Part of the floor above had come down after it, and the joist was supporting a mound of rubble and broken furniture. “

I would change “was supporting” to “now supported”. The reason? Because on first reading I wasn’t sure if this was the same joist as before or another joist and adding “now” would clear this up for me. 

 

Page two!

 

 

“where there had been two an hour before”

  • an hour before or minutes before? I thought there were still two when he was on the stairs.

 

Oh, no! Ignore my last bit about the ice. You do a masterful explanation on this page.

 

“Tr had hated the man then. Still hated him, sometimes, for the trouble he’d caused the family he’d spent his whole life serving.”

  • Tenses apparently are my big nit pick today. “had hated” “Still hated” 
  • Okay, I read it again and realized that “had hated” is actually correct as the “then” refers to when the Duke married the Dutchess. I think this would be more apparent if you moved it up to the paragraph before it. 

 

Page three:

“He couldn’t help wishing that it was the other one.  “

  • I love this line. 

 

“Was that ragged breathing? Or the settling of rubble? “

  • Love this too. In fact All of page 3 is really good.

 

Page 4

“Where was everyone?”

  • I love that you have Tr ask this because, I as a reader was wondering it as well. 

 

““Most were downstairs when the wall came down. They don’t trust it to hold.” Rasnic fell quiet, taking in the wreckage. He looked a little green.”

  • Let the love fest continue! I love how you did this as well. 

 

“Tr had cleared a space a little wider than his shoulders. Br was thinner than he was, so if he could get in, he might be able to-“

  • I won’t mention the tense here. But I love the bit about Br being thinner. I knew Tr was portly!

 

Page 5

“Rasnic pulled him farther from the pile and dropped his voice. “There won’t be much help.”  Tr just stared at him. “You know how many left when they married.  The ones who stayed did so for My’s sake.” He fell silent, looking toward the sphere. “If they blame him-” 

  • Oh! I am eating this up. I love it, love it, love it! 

 

“Then he is still their duke.”

  • Still their or “He is still our duke”?

 

““See if there’s a gap between this thing and the wall where we can force a way in,” Tr said. He doubted there was one.  If there was, the ice wouldn’t have fared so well against the force that had destroyed the walls before the ceiling came down.”

  • This bit is still confusing for me. what is “this thing” the rubble or the sphere?
  • how does he know the wall was destroyed before the ceiling? Pinching pennies here but I’m not sure I’d know. I assumed it all happened at the same time

 

Page 6

“Tr dropped his head to the ground and squeezed his eyes shut, expecting something to crash into the top of the pile and send him and Br both to Judgment.”

  • I love this. It really helps to amp up the tension. it is a great example of Yes, but… Yes, he can move the statue but the wall may be coming down- oh! and the healer is dead… I also laughted out loud at the end of this paragraph. It really made me love the Duke. I didn’t get any of these warm and fuzzies from any character my first read through but I am INVESTED now. 

 

Page 7

““Get anyone who isn’t too much of a damned coward to keep their Oath,”

  • I don’t love Tr but I damn well respect him at this point. This has been a great upgrade in character from the last version. It also feels more YA to me than the last version, I have no idea why, but it does and this is not a bad thing. I LoVe YA as it usually is easier for me to read and focuses more on characters and growth- and I just answered my question: it is because the characters are better developed that it feels more YA. I’m loving it.

 

“There might be little possibility in saving him, but if the duke died without explaining that sphere, leaving the title to his nine-year-old son would be the least of Trambor’s problems.”

  • Ooh, this leaves me with all sorts of interesting questions. I like how you inserted the call back to magic being a big no no here.  If left unanswered would the new, young duke be outcast or have to pay for his father’s crimes?

 

Page 11

“he asked quietly, hating the pain it brough to Br’s face.”

- Does he, though? This does seem out of character. I thought he was still super pissed at the duke.

 

““After all the trouble they’ve put you through, I find it hard to believe you’d turn to defying the laws now.”  

Br was too paranoid about the repercussions it might bring on his family to have done something so foolish.  But something had happened.”

  • Okay the first line I quoted still doesn’t make much sense to me. But I wonder if it can just be deleted since the following lines explain, what seems to be the same thing, and betterish. It is a tense thing again. “was too paranoid” to “had been too paranoid.” Otherwise Tr is would have to know what the Duke was thinking at the current moment, which he can’t. 

“The girl. She’d been sent to fetch “

  • Again, which girl? a maid, the midwife?  

Page 13

““Dw.” The guard’s anger sobered at the exhausted voice from the bed. “Not now.””

  • this should be three paragraphs, methinks. 

 

“head was pillowed on his arms on the bed, the rest of him draped back over the arm of the chair where his legs were curled up under him.”

  • Lots of arms here. Not grammatically wrong but still feels repetitive. 

 

Also: time: It was early afternoon when Tr first came into the room. It seems like no more than an hour has passed, if that. So why is the boy falling asleep in the early afternoon? 9 is a bit old for a nap. 

 

Okay: Now you have me pumped for the next chapter. Grammar-smamer (cause there is a lot of possibly improper use of the past perfect simple tense, I feel like I spotted it on almost every page…) but grammar is an easy fix. This was most excellent. I smiled, I laughed, I was touched by the last scene and the imagery it gave me (I mean, come on, sleeping kids are the most precious.) My husband asked what I was doing more than once (cause I was ignoring him and the kiddos, never mind it is bedtime)

It would probably be worth while to get a fresh set of eyes on it, but my issues with confusion were totally absent here. 

Anyway. Last time I said I would read on to chapter 1 but put the book down if chapter 1 didn’t improve. Truth is I was being nice. I wouldn’t have even finished the prologue. But this, this is much better. With this I would have bought the damn book and eagerly driven home to devour the rest. 

 

Bravo.

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This is definitely a better draft! There was more sense of immediacy and urgency and I had a better sense of the POV character. The worldbuilding that was provided felt more significant than the details we were getting before and did a better job of giving me a sense of how the setting worked, though there are still a couple of places where it felt unwieldy (I flagged a couple below) and there are still some places where some trimming could probably happen.

Pacing-wise, this still reads to me more like a Chapter 1 than a prologue, I think partially because of the length and partially because of the focus on the relationship between the duke, the son, and T at the end of the chapter. It doesn’t necessarily feel like it is setting is up for immediate change.

Since you asked about reducing word count – there are definitely still some areas where you could trim. I suspect you could (further) shorten the bit where T is pulling the duke out of the rubble – for example, you have both R and D discover that the healer is dead – and the scene at the end between D, T and the duke could probably be trimmed further as well. I did notice that every lull in the conversation between T and the Duke was followed by at least a few lines of description, for example, and you went back to the scene of people breaking through the ice at least twice. Some of the dialogue between Dw, T and the Duke could potentially be trimmed, depending on how important Dw is to the future story. And you can watch out for little line level things like repeated descriptions – wet coughs, shaky hands, etc. Might also help the give the prologue a punchier, more … erm, prologue-y feel.

As I read:

Good edit to that second line, that makes things much clearer.

Bottom of p2 “Still hated him, sometimes…” all fine and good but take a look at clearing up the pronouns. The word “he” is thrown around several times and refers to different people at different points in the sentence; the intent is clear, but the sentence is a bit of a stumbling block.

The worldbuilding on the top of p3 – this is good info, and feels more graceful than what was in the first draft. If not for the placement, I think you could get away with this here. But because the immediate situation is so urgent, it’s still somewhat conspicuous as an infodump.

“There won’t be much help.” Again, good info, but I wonder at this. Would anyone presumably rushing to help even have enough information to decide that the duke is at fault for whatever happened here? In general, this version does a better job of hanging a lantern on the fact that the castle is emptier than normal, but I’m still a bit disbelieving that more people aren’t available and coming to help.

P7 “there might be little possibility in saving him” should be “of” instead of “in,” I think

P9 “How long had it been… Half an hour?” Has it really been that long? I didn’t get a sense that that much time had passed.

If it takes so little for something as apparently innocuous as a sleep spell to be miscast and tear through a castle, and there’s such prejudice against magic users in this kingdom, then why on earth did the duke try to cast the spell before ensuring that his location was secured and anyone who might see it in action was briefed?

“…had to be something useful that could still be done here.” Nice bit of emotional resonance here.

Earlier T speculated that it might take an hour for someone to come from the village, and then that it had been at least half an hour or maybe three-quarters since the incident happened. Shouldn’t more help be arriving any time now?

P14 “the kitchen servants were there…”

“…no child should have to experience so young.” They don’t have regency plans in place?

By the end of the sub there seems to be a sense that the duke is definitely dying but that’s not really clear to me from the narrative, since help has been sent for and the timeline seems to suggest it should be arriving shortly. It's clear that the duke has been badly injured but I'm not totally buying into the idea that his fate is sealed.

18 minutes ago, Valerie said:

- “had warned” but warned them before what? I think this sentence can be quickly fixed by changing the tense to get rid of the “perfect” bit and go with “The midwife warned them…”

I actually think past perfect worked in most of the instances where it was used because the narrative, which is written in past tense, commences just after the event happens that causes a lot of the things T is observing - the walls falling down, etc. Similarly the midwife's warning happened before the thing happens that causes all the chaos.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Valerie said:

Anyway. Last time I said I would read on to chapter 1 but put the book down if chapter 1 didn’t improve. Truth is I was being nice. I wouldn’t have even finished the prologue.

Hah.  This is entirely fair.  I would not have blamed you.  Like I said before, I have no idea how I missed so many incredibly confusing things on the first round.  So glad you enjoyed this version :) 
It's interesting that you pointed it out as having a more YA feel this time around because of it being more character focused.  I do like that aspect of YA (and think that's one of the reason the whole story will feel more YA) but shy away from the general connotation of teen angst and characters who have their priorities way out of whack. 
Ultimately, my theoretical audience is people who aren't technically in the YA target audience, but who still like to read YA because of the character detail and the lack of graphic sex/violence, and who want to see characters facing larger scale challenges and more difficult decisions than which hot guy to make out with at the end. But that isn't really a marketing category....so we will see what happens.

 

1 hour ago, Valerie said:

Not sure how much of a grammar person you are (I use to be able to expertly diagram a sentence but am more than 15 years out from my last college grammar and syntax class and thus incredibly rusty

I wouldn't have considered myself a grammar person, but considering how much I tend toward sentences that are a mile long, that's probably a lie.  And 15 years is still better off than I am.  I think the last time I diagrammed sentences was in middle school?  So...ugh. Twenty years ago now? Turns out they don't do a lot of grammar studies in college engineering programs. 

That being said, I think most of the instances, at least, should be correct.  I figure we have the timeline that Tr is experiencing starting at the top of the stairs, going through the end of the chapter.  So the midwife's warning, the presence of the second band, the wall falling, etc. should all be before that timeline as he's experiencing it. 

1 hour ago, Silk said:

If it takes so little for something as apparently innocuous as a sleep spell to be miscast and tear through a castle, and there’s such prejudice against magic users in this kingdom, then why on earth did the duke try to cast the spell before ensuring that his location was secured and anyone who might see it in action was briefed?

I guess this does still need a little clarification.  Normally, it wouldn't be.  It's generally a harmless and entirely legal spell, so the healer wouldn't have had any qualms about asking him to help.  It was slightly more risky for Br for reasons that we don't get until a while down the road, but it was reasonable for both Br and the healer to assume that there wasn't any risk in things going wrong.  Certainly not enough to just go without trying.  I'll have to figure out how to make that a little clearer without doing a full magic system summary.

1 hour ago, Silk said:

“…no child should have to experience so young.” They don’t have regency plans in place?

This is more just referring to the general experience of losing his parents (though listed among the other things that the advisers would be taking care of, I see the confusion) and, while there are plans in place, no one ever wants those sorts of plans to actually be necessary. 

Part of me is assuming that the back of book summary would mention or imply Br's death, so I hadn't felt a need to mention it here. It would at least be clear that by the time the main story starts, he has his title. Chapter 1 calls out the fact that both Br and My die here, and it's addressed a little more when we hit Al's PoV in Chapter 2.  Even if help gets there in a reasonable amount of time, I'd assumed that extensive lung damage would be tough to do anything about in this medical era.

Thanks so much for the thoughts!  And I'm glad this was easier to understand.  Now I can start to address the other problems that were hidden under the mess of confusion :lol:

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(*Disclaimer: All my comments, they're always suggestions; though my critiquing style is direct; it is never intended as personal, but to aimed at the best of effects.)

31 minutes ago, Snakenaps said:

I actually got to take a sneak peek at this submission over the weekend

Cheater!!

Spoiler

cheetah.thumb.jpg.d4257cd7111d24f5b64720595313587a.jpg

I am definitely intrigued to read how this has changed.

(page 1)

- "part of the castle wall crashing down" - suggest deleting. To me, castle wall sound like the boundary wall around the grounds. If you use say castle, it's completely clear it's part of the building, IMO.

- "around his forearm there just as the wall came down" - what does this add? Only some confusion, IMO.

- "echoing off of the mountains" - redundant: adds nothing.

- "The silence ahead..." - Great line. There is much more tension and clarity in this version, I think. The former because of the latter.

- "the right-side wall had been" - righthand, IMO. Conventional phrasing is easier for the reader to absorb without noticing the writing.

- "shielding the duchess and those who’d been attending her" - This is a kind of presumptuous assumption on his part. He doesn't know anyone is in there, does he?

- "crushed against the walls" - Nice description. This and the dust and the light, all conveys the destruction nicely.

- "One of the joists overhead" - Only one? I'm surprised. Given the level of destruction, I'd expect more. Only one of them needs to have landed on the duke, of course, but others can come down. The scale of the blast warrants more damage to the roof, IMO.

(page 2)

- "Part of the floor above" - I know that this is technically correct, but the ceiling sounds more appropriate. IMO, reader brain puts the floor under his feet.

- "Damned K magic" - three little words, but they encapsulate so much world-building.

(page 3)

- "based in spite" - on spite, IMO. (I only really get invested in LBL comments when the writing is good, and there are few enough bits a pieces that they cry out for attention all the more (IMO).

- Good character notes on Tra, and everything we hear through Tre's POV tells us something about him.

- There is quite a bit of political world-building here. Some is good; I feel we are edging towards info dump territory.

- "He swallowed and backed away from the sphere, noticing a faint noise from the pile of debris beside it the sphere" - phrase repetition in the same sentence.

(page 4)

- "Where was everyone?" - Yes, we really needed this sort of questioning of the things we found surprising as readers.

- "It would be another week before all of the servants and guards who’d been traveling for the midsummer festival would returned" - repetition of 'would'.

- "They don’t trust it to hold" - Fine, absolutely fine. I don't need to like the reason that 'no' help comes, as long as it's plausible.

(page 5)

- "fought against his own fear that B might be to blame" - His emotions towards B seem kind of conflicted. My concern would be that they become inconsistent.

- "Would picking at the ice risk cracks that would bring the top down on those inside?" - Extra words? Grammar off, somehow.

(page 6)

- "would find something even here to his amusement" - Phrasing: suggest 'Even here, B would find something to his amusement.' 'would' is the least interesting word in the sentence to stress, IMO, and the key phrase is broken up by 'even here' in the original version.

- "The healer is dead" - good: upped the stakes. I like that.

- "after a labored gasp of breath" - a gasp is always 'of breath', a gasp for breath implies something else, breathlessness, but a gasp of breath doesn't need saying.

- "grief and guilt" - why guilt? I don't understand.

- "Most are still gone" - we know this already. I have no expectation that they would be back yet, because we've been told already that they are days away (I think?). There is a way to remind us of this without coming out and stating something we already no. something like 'Not the few left in the castle, no.'

(page 7)

- This is the point at which I start to feel that this is going on too long. Things are starting to be repeated. The need for a healer is repeated twice in this first paragraph alone. This is definitely where it feels like progress is dropping off significantly.

- Yeah, he's tried to move the stone already, so this feels like repetition. I'm starting to skim. All the mechanics of the rock collapse, and the debris and stuff, it's all well written, but here at the start of the story, in a prologue, it doesn't matter. It feels like a 'darling' that needs to be killed.

(page 8)

- Wait, so one man can't pull out one trapped man, but another man can pull out two men (one trapped)? This seems implausible to me.

(page 9)

- The healer, the healer; always with the healer. Broken record.

- "from a waterskin he must have brought" - too much information: sips from his waterskin would do fine.

- "of marriage severed" - I feel like we need the prologue to learn stuff about the world that we'll need for the story, so showing us these magical details is interesting and useful. A man being removed from some rubble, and continued pleas for a healer, while well enough done, are not interesting or necessary in a prologue, I feel, because they don't add anything to setting; character (particularly); world-building; or plot.

(page 11)

- "The spell slipped" - This is good, I like this, knowing the magic can go wrong. As noted earlier, I still think the prologue is too long, and contains too much 'action' and dialogue that doesn't add anything to the story, not in a prologue form. This stuff that adds to story, this is the important stuff, but plenty still can be cut, IMO.

- "Then he isn’t at fault" - This is more good stakes, IMO. More relevant to the child though, it seems, this being a prologue, I'm already assuming the father will die.

(page 12)

- "They won’t even look at the girl when they can blame him" - Good: I didn't think this aspect was clear before, but completely clear in this version.

- "the family that has led Tra since Gil founding" - Confused, I don't know what Gil is.

- "His father turned against Tra" - I don't know enough about the geo-political setup for this to make sense to me.

- Not, I'm losing the place. Lots of name coming at me, and I can't parse them quickly enough to understand. Too much information, so I let it flow over me.

(page 13)

- Insufficient explanation of 'blood price'. I'm somewhat familiar with the concept, but I don't understand how it applies to this situation. Also, you need to consider readers who have no familiarity with blood price, or wereguild as it is originally know, I believe, and might be familiar to some readers from the Dresden Files.

(page 14)

- "useless and invasive" - Not the best word, there is a better one...intrusive, that's it. Invasive is too strong, IMO.

- All this stuff about brasiers, and headstones...yes, okay, the heat stones provides a little world-building, but do we really need that here? Answer: no, not in a prologue. Too much detail, IMO. The pace and tension of the prologue is starting to fall off, and IT FEELS we're basically waiting for the duke to die at this point. There is tension to be had in the breaking of the sphere, but that is not really being played up at this point, only described in matter-of-fact terms.

- "And get the girl to accept the blood price" - Eh? Why are they offering the girl the blood price? Who has she lost? I assumed they would offer the blood price to the healer's family. The girl isn't owed anything, she caused the accident.

(page 15)

- This prologue seems to be ending on a very low key not, trailing away instead of finishing with drama and momentum that will propel me into the first chapter.

- Yeah, I'm not keen on the ending. For me, I was looking for the sphere to be broken, and thereby confirmation that the duchess was dead. Physical confirmation, I mean. All through the prologue, the quest has been to get to the duke and duchess. To see the duchess dead on the page would be a dramatic underscoring of the prologue, and thereby for the duke to die, on the page, that would leave us with the setup for the story proper, I presume, the young duke (grown up) with his two(?) old, trusted advisors, I guess?

Overall 

Definitely better by strides than the first version, but still too long, IMO. There are still details and darlings in there that should be cut from a prologue, I think. The pacing falls off towards the end quite dramatically and I feels to me that it stumbles across the line, and doesn't end in a satisfying way, or in a way that sets me up for the story proper.

Good job on the editing. I think it needs another pass or two, now or at next full edit.

Thanks for re-sharing :) 

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Hello! I haven't read any of your other submissions so I'm a totally new reader at this prologue! :P

Overall: I think I more or less understood what was going on... I also think that this sets up a lot of really interesting stuff and as a reader I'm definitely hooked -- if I had a chapter one, I'd definitely be reading that right now because I'm curious about what's going to happen twelve years from these events. But... if chapter one isn't awesome I'd probably put it down. I'm just a little bit confused about some things but hopeful that those will make more sense in the future.

As I go:

pg 1 - "The midwife ... the garden" - These sentences were vague enough that I was pretty confused. I definitely didn't put together that the duchess was the one having a child for some reason... maybe I'm just tired but that was confusing. I think the biggest thing that could be established is that the magic came from the room where the childbirth was happening. 

pg 1 - "When he reached the bedroom..." - This part was also a bit confusing. I think at this point if you'd explained that it was the duchess's bedroom that would have cleared some things up because I was pretty confused but maybe that's just me.

pg 2 - "he looked down to find a single O marking his forearm..." The heck is an O? At this point in reading it I was hoping to learn more about it, because right now I don't even know what it looks like or what it does.

pg 2 - "Still hated him, sometimes, for the trouble he’d caused the family he’d spent his whole life serving." - Who does he hate? This is a slightly confusing sentence.

pg 3 - I understood the political stuff on this page pretty well. I think it's just the right amount of detail!

pg 5 - “Shielded in with the midwife, maybe.” - Why are they just assuming that the duchess is dead?

pg 12 - "I don't fully ... who will stand with I's prejudice" - His lungs are crushed, and just a little while ago he couldn't talk, but now he's talking in full sentences?

pg 14 - "And get the girl to accept the blood price.” - What? What's a blood price? Why does she need one?

pg 15 - "He swallowed and touched the O that still circled his arm." - I'm still not sure what an O is, and I feel like I'm going to learn more about it later, but because you mention them so much in this story without really connecting it to anything else that's going on it gets a little confusing and honestly kind of annoying.

I agree with @Robinski that there are a lot of things in here that could definitely be cut to make it less of a drag, but honestly I liked the way the ending felt. It feels like the story ended. But a confirmation about the duchess's fate would be nice.

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On 1/11/2021 at 6:23 AM, C_Vallion said:

1. Are the political details, magic, and physical layout of the scene clear?  I think I fixed all of the big things, and tried to spread out the name introductions to be less overwhelming, but it’s so hard to read through from a new-reader perspective.

 

Yes. I was able to picture what was going on for most of it and it was a lot easier to follow. The first couple paragraphs still make feel like it's an attack on the palace. I would feel a lot more grounded if a birth was mentioned in the opening paragraph. You did a great job clarifying everything and writing a closer POV.

As a whole, I still think it could be a little shorter though. The scene with the rubble moving and getting the duke to the other room still dragged a little bit. I found myself getting impatient wanting to know what actually happened, even though technically I knew from reading last time. 

On 1/11/2021 at 6:23 AM, C_Vallion said:

2. Are there things that still seem to be missing?  Either for clarity’s sake, or just as a general story introduction?  

 

No. Adding more would take you back to the problem of having too much too soon.

On 1/11/2021 at 6:23 AM, C_Vallion said:

3. What spots could be streamlined or trimmed back? (Always point these out.  I am horrible at cutting back text, and I like rabbit trails.  These are both significant problems when one of my main goals for this round of revisions on the full manuscript is a major wordcount reduction).

 

It's hard to say specifically what information could be trimmed since I haven't read the rest of the book. I felt like all of it could be streamlined more, which probably isn't very helpful. In last week's thread, you had mentioned that one of the reasons you wanted the prologue was to show what really happened that day. My suggestion would be to focus as tightly as you can on revealing that and more of the world building for future chapters. 

As I read:

"...garden..." Opening paragraph still made me think I was in  a siege. I would feel more grounded if the birth was mentioned in the first paragraph.

"...her during the birth from view..." Glad the birth is at least mentioned here

"...furniture. There was a faint sobbing..." This whole scene is much, much easier to picture. :-)

"After a moment of silence..." I felt like the pace was starting to drag here. I was getting impatient and wanted to just know what happened. 

"Swallowing, T stepped closer to the bed..." Pacing still feels slow. I wanted to know what happened pages ago, but I felt a little frustrated while reading more than I felt in suspense. 

I didn't make more notes after here. I was interested when the whole cause of the damage was revealed and when they were discussing what to do about it. 

I did think it trailed off a little too the end. Like the part where the mc was getting the chair and feeling like was intruding. 

 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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20 hours ago, Silk said:

Since you asked about reducing word count – there are definitely still some areas where you could trim. I suspect you could (further) shorten the bit where T is pulling the duke out of the rubble – for example, you have both R and D discover that the healer is dead – and the scene at the end between D, T and the duke could probably be trimmed further as well. I did notice that every lull in the conversation between T and the Duke was followed by at least a few lines of description, for example, and you went back to the scene of people breaking through the ice at least twice. Some of the dialogue between Dw, T and the Duke could potentially be trimmed, depending on how important Dw is to the future story. And you can watch out for little line level things like repeated descriptions – wet coughs, shaky hands, etc. Might also help the give the prologue a punchier, more … erm, prologue-y feel.

 

I agree with all of this. 

Honestly, if following @Silk's advice, you could get this down to 2,000 or 2,500 words, that would be ideal.

However, you don't necessarily need to do that right now. It might be easier to come back after you've done a pass on the whole book. If I were in this situation, I'd set the prologue aside, focus on other things, and then come back to it with fresh eyes later and attack it then. 

12 hours ago, Robinski said:

Definitely better by strides than the first version, but still too long, IMO. There are still details and darlings in there that should be cut from a prologue, I think. The pacing falls off towards the end quite dramatically and I feels to me that it stumbles across the line, and doesn't end in a satisfying way, or in a way that sets me up for the story proper.

 

Agree. 

On 1/11/2021 at 11:32 AM, Snakenaps said:

I think you explain well, I think the struggle I’m having is with how much information gets dumped on me at once. It feels like every other paragraph is something new, and I’m struggling to absorb it all. My brain is so busy trying to catalog everything that I can’t feel the tension. 

 

I agree with this too. This time, I was able to understand everything much better than last time, but I still felt like there was a lot and the prologue isn't necessarily the best place to dump so much world building. 

I think prologues are good if you want to reveal information about an event the mc might not know, but I don't like it when they are a main source of introducing me to many key pieces of world building and politics. I'd rather that get dosed out through the first couple chapters. 

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Much Improved! The descriptions of the room were so much clearer this time around as well as the character introductions, well done!

A few small things I noticed:

"The silence ahead provided a terrifying..."

Might be stronger as: "The silence was terrifying."

The sentence after, "T hated the man then." Has some confusing his/he due to two males being involved with neither named.

"T flinched as the body next to him..."

I thought this was a corpse next to the Duke and T at first.

"Hands closed on T's ankles and pulled." This part I have a hard time with. Wouldn't it have been easier if T just got out of the way so the other stronger man could just pull the Duke out instead of making him haul two people? I don't recall any reason T had to stay there, or why the other guy couldn't have fit in the same place T had been. Dragging a two man chain over an uneven surface would be incredibly difficult it seems.

I still don't quite get the "blood pr" mechanic, but maybe I don't need to. The rest of the world building seemed pretty clear. 

I do want to say that I liked the way you addressed the injuries. The MC doesn't understand them, so you don't go into any detail. So often as a nurse, this is what kicks me out of a story. Well done again!

Thanks for sharing

 

Edited by Sarah B
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Overall

This is much improved in terms of description, world building, etc. I assume our little nine year old boy is the eventual protagonist?

I think the part I'm still stuck on with this is character buy-in. I don't care about anyone yet, and our MC isn't particularly active. He appears as more of an observer who will not serve any actual plot purpose. Because of that I wonder if he is the right MC for the the prologue. What about the girl who has to pay the blood price, or the little boy? Or even the dead mom? Someone who is actively part of the plot. That would help a lot with me getting invested in the character and world.

I'm also not entirely sure this prologue is necessary. If the little boy is our main protagonist, then couldn't we just sum this up with 'his mom was killed in a magic attack by XYZ' and then he can get more details from other people as the story progresses. I do think that if the prologue stays, it needs a more active lead.

Nice work on the edits! I think this is still too long, but that sort of trimming you can do later, once you have your MC sorted.

 

As I go

- pg 1: But none of them could have prepared for the blast of magic  <-- the start is better now, but this is the powerhouse line and it is super passive. It'd have more of a hook if it was active, like we were experiencing it, instead of recounting it

- pg 2: I have a much better idea of what is going on now, though again, it feels very passive. Like we missed the inciting incident and are being told about it instead. It makes me feel a bit cheated. I want to watch the destruction!

- pg 2: why would the sobbing only be the midwife or the healer? Why not the mother or baby?

- pg 4: the oathbands just serve to confuse me right now. Are they markers of life? Sometimes it seems so and sometimes not

- pg 5: how do we know M is dead??

- pg 6: so while I understand much more of the world, right now I am bored. Nothing is happening and we've had six pages of what DID happen, but no new events. I need something to move the plot forward to stay engaged

- pg 6: Wait, how do we know the healer is dead? He thought she was inside. All the cool stuff is happening outside the main POV and so this makes me wonder if we are in the right POV for the story

- pg 8: I don't care about the wounded and such so this section doesn't have much tension. I need to care about the characters before I care they are hurt. Now if our MC was getting injured trying to save someone, that would bring more tension

- pg 9: again, how do we know the wife/pregnant lady died? Also, this is a yellow card on potential fridging. Please don't make me reset the counter. We have had a great run for like, six months!

- pg 12: more politics I don't yet care about because I don't care about the people. I really need some solid buy in for someone before any of their situations will matter to me

 

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14 hours ago, Robinski said:

Wait, so one man can't pull out one trapped man, but another man can pull out two men (one trapped)? This seems implausible to me.

2 minutes ago, Sarah B said:

"Hands closed on T's ankles and pulled." This part I have a hard time with. Wouldn't it have been easier if T just got out of the way so the other stronger man could just pull the Duke out instead of making him haul two people? I don't recall any reason T had to stay there, or why the other guy couldn't have fit in the same place T had been. Dragging a two man chain over an uneven surface would be incredibly difficult it seems.

This might need an extra clarifying detail or two if it's still not coming across right.  I guess I'm wondering what you guys are picturing.  The main problem would be Tr not being able to get leverage to pull Br out from under what's pinning him. He's on his stomach under a bunch of stuff that he's nervous about bumping into, so he's only able to really use his arms to maneuver.  He can either get a solid grip on Br with full arm strength or he (or Dw if they switched out, though in my head Dw is too big to fit) just hang on with his hands and use elbow shuffling to back out, at which point, speed becomes a huge issue once things start shifting.  Dw has more leverage to pull both of them, and is just generally in a better position to apply more strength (sort of comparing the weight that can be lifted in squats/deadlifts vs. bicep curls).  I would have to recruit some help to officially confirm, but I'd still think that dragging a two-man chain, while painful, is probably going to be less difficult overall than anyone trying to backward-army-crawl while dragging a body.   
Is there something there that you are seeing differently?

15 hours ago, Robinski said:

- Insufficient explanation of 'blood price'. I'm somewhat familiar with the concept, but I don't understand how it applies to this situation. Also, you need to consider readers who have no familiarity with blood price, or wereguild as it is originally know, I believe, and might be familiar to some readers from the Dresden Files.

10 hours ago, ima willshaper said:

pg 14 - "And get the girl to accept the blood price.” - What? What's a blood price? Why does she need one?

34 minutes ago, Sarah B said:

I still don't quite get the "blood pr" mechanic, but maybe I don't need to

Hm.  I hadn't been aware of a Dresden connection. 
I'll have to figure out the best way to deal with explaining this (or how much of it needs to be explained.  Or if I should just drop it here entirely), because it is a little different. Long story, short (as short as any of my explanations get...) : A lot of the judicial system is based on the detail that if you aren't able to come to some happy compromise with someone who you have wronged, or who has wronged you, then the wronged person (or someone on their behalf) has the right to basically perform a divine judgment ritual that calls on our god of judgment to decide how to punish them.  This can be risky on both sides if the accuser isn't 110% sure they're in the right on the matter, and most people tend to feel safer deciding on some less flashy form of justice amongst themselves (usually with the help of magistrates).  So in this case, Br would have a right to demand some price from the midwife, and Al would have a greater right, but would have to be involved with divine rituals that he wouldn't understand, which was where the possibility of Tr doing so on his behalf came in in the original version.  The blood price the midwife agrees to is basically the arrangement decided upon by all involved that if she follows through with X, they won't call down judgment on her from the gods. The healer's family would also have a right to make similar arrangements. 

At this point, I'm going to let the prologue sit for a while because it's all merged together in my head and I need to distance myself from it a bit before I make more edits.  I do know that I need to incorporate more of the religious/judicial system in the early chapters than I currently have (a lot of it will probably be added by the time you guys see it, but we'll see), and when I'd had some of it in the prologue, it was because it hadn't been there.  I'll have to reassess as I go through those chapters before I jump back to rework the prologue. 

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3 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

This might need an extra clarifying detail or two if it's still not coming across right.  I guess I'm wondering what you guys are picturing.  The main problem would be Tr not being able to get leverage to pull Br out from under what's pinning him. He's on his stomach under a bunch of stuff that he's nervous about bumping into, so he's only able to really use his arms to maneuver.  He can either get a solid grip on Br with full arm strength or he (or Dw if they switched out, though in my head Dw is too big to fit) just hang on with his hands and use elbow shuffling to back out, at which point, speed becomes a huge issue once things start shifting.  Dw has more leverage to pull both of them, and is just generally in a better position to apply more strength (sort of comparing the weight that can be lifted in squats/deadlifts vs. bicep curls).  I would have to recruit some help to officially confirm, but I'd still think that dragging a two-man chain, while painful, is probably going to be less difficult overall than anyone trying to backward-army-crawl while dragging a body.   
Is there something there that you are seeing differently?

 

I missed that the MC had needed to crawl into a space to reach the Duke. In my mind, he had laid down to lift the statue up but was in an area where he could stand. That's why it seemed strange that when help came he just kept laying there and waited to be pulled out too. 

If the space was that small, and he's facing the Duke, how was the MC able to lift off the statue reaching straight forward? Still a bit confused. Maybe I started off with the wrong image of the layout in my head. 

I would reread it to clarify, but I don't save subs after I have already critiqued.

I hope this helps!

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1 minute ago, Sarah B said:

 

If the space was that small, and he's facing the Duke, how was the MC able to lift off the statue reaching straight forward? Still a bit confused. Maybe I started off with the wrong image of the layout in my head. 

I would reread it to clarify, but I don't save subs after I have already critiqued.

 

He rolls to his back to get a little more leverage and pushes it off that way (going back to our weightlifting comparisons-can you tell I started my coaching season? You're going to have more leverage for something like a bench press compared to curls or an overhead press). Which is why it still ends up falling on Br's arm instead of actually falling clear.  Though it's possible that wasn't 100% clear either. Will have to go back and check later.

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Perhaps the solution is rope? Tie a rope around the duke and the two can heave ho him out? 

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54 minutes ago, kais said:

pg 9: again, how do we know the wife/pregnant lady died? Also, this is a yellow card on potential fridging. Please don't make me reset the counter. We have had a great run for like, six months!

That is something I've also been a little concerned about (the fridging, that is.  The Ob are supposed to confirm M's death, but I try to be clever and end up just being confusing...).  Especially because there's no room to give much information about M here, even though she's very much the main person holding the duchy together.  I think that if anyone has been fridged, it's probably Br, really. He just gets to say some things beforehand, where as most of M's influence, we see through later snippets. 

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11 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

This might need an extra clarifying detail or two if it's still not coming across right.

Honestly, I think must of this can be cut. You easily could sum it up in two of three lines, like '

Tre struggled, levered and tugged, but couldn't free the Duke. Finally, help arrived in the form of Dw and, together, one levering, one pulling they battled against the debris until, choking dust and moaning in pain, the Duke was free at least.' - Cheesy example, but you can still convey the effort, the difficulty and the extent of the injuries without all the 'action' which is pretty much irrelevant to the story proper. Unless the events directly impact the main plot, I think most of what happens in the prologue can be told almost in montage format and, as @kais says, that easily could be in flashback/recollection from the MC in the full narrative of the story.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

I hadn't been aware of a Dresden connection.

It's by no means a major component of the Dresden stories, but does spears in several of the books, where relevant.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weregild

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8 minutes ago, Robinski said:

Honestly, I think must of this can be cut.

This is probably true.  And I'm sure I'll get closer to that as I go back to it (letting it sit for a bit before going back to it now). 

This is going to be something that is probably going to be a challenge for me throughout.  A lot of my initial writing inspiration starts with snapshots of scenes and lines of dialogue that go with them (most of my initial roughing out of chapters are pretty much dialogue + stage direction), so there are a lot of sections that in my mind are inherently tied to how things have to be, even though they aren't actually important.  Initial drafts also tend toward an "I can always cut out the extra stuff later" approach, which doesn't help with the problem.

I'm catching more of them as I'm going through my current revision to prepare things to be submitted here (turns out it's suddenly a lot easier to acknowledge unnecessary parts when I know that you guys will suggest cutting them out anyway), but I'm sure that a lot of it is going to be a matter of making multiple passes and trimming back a few things each time as they become more obviously irrelevant. 

Relatedly, in response to this:

On 1/12/2021 at 4:31 AM, Robinski said:

(*Disclaimer: All my comments, they're always suggestions; though my critiquing style is direct; it is never intended as personal, but to aimed at the best of effects.)

Good.  I need direct critiquing. Because otherwise I'm going to end up with a 200k word book.  I'm sure I'll be less enthusiastic about it when everyone suggests cutting out little things that aren't actually useful, but seemed really clever at the time, but I'm fully aware of how much work needs to be done if I want it to actually go anywhere. So thanks!

Even after just two submissions, all of the input from you and from everyone has been incredibly helpful, and I really appreciate it :) 

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45 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

A lot of my initial writing inspiration starts with snapshots of scenes and lines of dialogue that go with them (most of my initial roughing out of chapters are pretty much dialogue + stage direction), so there are a lot of sections that in my mind are inherently tied to how things have to be, even though they aren't actually important.

If this scene was in the main body of the story, it could and would be very tense as they would be fighting to save characters who we know and are invested in, and the stakes would be feeding directly into the main plot. There's not much wrong with the scene, IMO, most of the issues come from the fact it's in a prologue.

Also, always glad to be of help. Directness is our business. ( @kais, fire up the T-shirt machine ;) ).

Edited by Robinski
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I wanted to read the previous sub last Sunday, but I figured I could just wait till you sent the revised version so that I could look at it all with a fresh pair of eyes!

It seems like everyone has already commented on a lot of grammar stuff so I'll try to not be repetitive!

 

Page 1

-”had wrapped itself around his forearm there” there? Where? I think you can just take out “there.” Also, I assume the tingling is from magic. Makes me wonder if he is the one who destroyed the castle

-”gruesome tear in the stone”   is “tear” the right word? I think of fabric or paper when I think of “tear.” Also, I read “tear” as in “a tear drop” at first. English is wild

-”the base of the sphere enveloped…” everything was confusing until this sentence. Now all is clear, well almost all. Basically now I understand that there is a sphere protecting this duchess and her newly born baby.

-i had to look up what a joist is

 

Page 2

-does Tr know what this blue sphere is? Edit: answered later, no he doesn't, yet.

-just something i noticed, but this phrase, ”breath caught in his lungs” is said on page one and two. Seems too soon to have his breath catch in his lungs again.

 

Page 3

-”even if he was a mage” so Tr hates mages? Hmmm

-also, i glazed over a bit in the second paragraph with all the info about the king, seems like info you can explain later

-I hope these O-bands get explained. Why would he wish for the other one?

-”lifted his hand to pound” would “fist” work better than “hand”? When you say “hand” I assume an open hand, but then pound makes me think fist. I guess you could pound with your palm..

 

Page 6

-”eyes went shut” consider just saying, “eyes shut.” eyes don’t go shut, they just shut.

 

Page 7

“T flinched as the body” makes it sound like the duke is already dead

 

Page 9

-”all of the K seemed to call each other cousins” how does it seem like that? Either they do or they don't, right? “It seems like this group of people all refer to each other as ‘cousin’.” just sounds off to me. 

 

Page 10

-”shocked by the man’s anger” i didn’t get that he was angry, just that his harsh tone might have been because he was in pain or something 

 

Page 11

-”his eyes wide in horrified shock.” i've seen this a lot. I think you can just say that his eyes were wide without telling us it was because of shock. It seems kind of telling. I assume his eyes being wide means he is shocked or horrified. 

-Im confused about what happened here. The spell slipped? The healer ...did something that the duke tried to fix? Eh? It might just be me but i am very confused. 

 

Page 13

-what’s a blood price

-”letting his eyes fall shut” i noticed this phrase three times in total 

-”who handed him a bunch of flowers” when did this kid have time to pick flowers?? Wait, why are there flowers? How much time has passed?

-also, what about the people in the ice sphere? I know it was said that there was someone using heating stones, but I felt like it was glanced over really quick. Edit: oh it's mentioned on the next page.

 

So, I had trouble picturing how the rubble in the room was laid out. At first, my brain conjured up the basic pile of rubble that falls on someone where you can just dig them out by moving stones (i say that like it happens all the time lol), but then it was mentioned that the ceiling above had actually collapsed and I guess Tr had to crawl under stuff? It wasn’t entirely clear to me. 

 

This is a super nitpicky thing that doesn’t affect your story at all, but in case you didn’t know: the hyphens you use when someone cuts themself off should be “––” rather than “-” em dash vs en dash vs hyphen.

Here is a little chart to help :)

Spoiler

hyphen.thumb.jpg.6c24bc734aaf2c5d6d5ba5969674e4bf.jpg

 

and here are the shortcuts for a mac

Spoiler

Em-Dash-v-En-Dash-v-Hyphen-630x485.png.df7c848b30ac57526706b41be8a14e76.png

 

Here is another nit-picky thing: I noticed that everyone was breathing a lot. FYI, the word “breath” (and breathing) is said 31 times. Also, there were ten instances of eyes shutting. Is this helpful? No, probably not. It’s just something I noticed. :)

 

Overall:

I was engaged at first, but it really seemed to drag in the middle and at the end. Also, there was no payoff for the ice sphere, the dutchess and her baby, and whoever Tr’s master was (unless the duke was his master but I got the impression that they were two separate people). I think a major problem in this prologue is that I was set up to think we were going to focus on that ice sphere trapping the people inside, or that it would at least lead somewhere, but then we focused too much on getting the duke out and his son giving him flowers and then sleeping. but people are literally trapped in ice! i guess they cant do much but still... i felt mislead lol

I did glaze over a bit whenever things about the world/king were explained (maybe that's why I was confused). But perhaps I glazed over because I went in knowing this was a prologue and it did start out like a great prologue, but I was expecting something… grander? The ending was kinda meh. This actually felt more like a second or middle chapter. It’s got beginnings for sure, but it's not punchy enough to be a prologue and it doesn't grasp me enough to be a first chapter. I’m sitting here thinking, why was this all necessary? Does it actually add anything to the story? It seems like it's just background for the kid at the end. But then again, I don't know the whole story so it's definitely hard to judge this prologue's worthiness. 

You set up something with the line “the midwife had warned them.” I was stoked to find out what that sentence was referring to. I think if you give this some payoff, it’ll work real well. Just in general, there were a lot of things set up that got me intrigued. During the whole thing, I was aching to learn what happened to the castle. But i think if you keep the reader in the dark for too long, they start to lose interest. Before I got answers, I just wanted the duke to either die already or hurry and tell them what happened. I think you can get to the answers quicker by cutting out some of the healer stuff and the struggle with getting the duke out (like everyone else has already stated).

Anyway, I appreciate the amount of love and thought put into the story (obvious from all the stuff you put in but had/have to cut). I would be curious to read on to learn more about Tr and whoever else is in future chapters!

Edited by karamel
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Really great edits, and I can tell a lot of work went into this. It's a lot clearer overall, but...

Late to the party on this one, and I think everyone else pretty much covered my thoughts. I'm going to reinforce the main things I saw:

On 1/12/2021 at 7:36 PM, kais said:

I think the part I'm still stuck on with this is character buy-in. I don't care about anyone yet, and our MC isn't particularly active. He appears as more of an observer who will not serve any actual plot purpose. Because of that I wonder if he is the right MC for the the prologue. What about the girl who has to pay the blood price, or the little boy? Or even the dead mom? Someone who is actively part of the plot. That would help a lot with me getting invested in the character and world.

I'm also not entirely sure this prologue is necessary. If the little boy is our main protagonist, then couldn't we just sum this up with 'his mom was killed in a magic attack by XYZ' and then he can get more details from other people as the story progresses. I do think that if the prologue stays, it needs a more active lead.

This is my main issue. Thinking about the whole thing, I was expecting payoff for 1) rescuing one of the parents and 2) rescuing the baby. We get neither of those and are instead introduced to another child who is perfectly fine and hasn't been involved at all. I don't really see a point for this, because it can all be summed up in a few sentences in the body of the book as a quick flashback.

 

On 1/12/2021 at 4:31 AM, Robinski said:

- Yeah, I'm not keen on the ending. For me, I was looking for the sphere to be broken, and thereby confirmation that the duchess was dead. Physical confirmation, I mean. All through the prologue, the quest has been to get to the duke and duchess. To see the duchess dead on the page would be a dramatic underscoring of the prologue, and thereby for the duke to die, on the page, that would leave us with the setup for the story proper, I presume, the young duke (grown up) with his two(?) old, trusted advisors, I guess?

Same thing. We don't get any payoff for the events of the chapter, which tells me it's not really needed. I was especially looking for a change in the McGuffin (the sphere) for this chapter, but it's never even opened.

 

As pretty much everyone has said, this still drags a bit, and I think most of the middle can be cut out. Is it important how B is rescued? Just say T pulled him out from some rubble. That would reduce this by over half and we could have a little resolution with the duchess/baby/sphere.

 

On 1/12/2021 at 4:41 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

However, you don't necessarily need to do that right now. It might be easier to come back after you've done a pass on the whole book. If I were in this situation, I'd set the prologue aside, focus on other things, and then come back to it with fresh eyes later and attack it then.

Finally, I think this might be the best advise. I'd much rather see the real meat of the story, and I suspect by the time you get some feedback on the rest, it will be pretty clear this prologue isn't needed.

Interested to read the first chapter!

 


Notes while reading:

First paragraph is much clearer!

pg 2: "as he looked down to find a single Oathband marking his forearm "
--the buildup to this works a lot better now.

pg 2/3" Still a bit confused with the names here. Is M supposed to be the one in the sphere?

pg 3: "He couldn’t help wishing that it was the other one."
--might be good to state which is which so we have the confirmation T does of who is still alive.

pg 3: "ragged, gasped breath"
--repetition

pg 4: "The darker shades"
--good. This information was missing last time.

pg 5: "If there was, the ice wouldn’t have fared so well"
--don't completely follow this logic.

pg 5: “We will need her.” 
--The healer? I had to check back to see who they were referring to.

pg 11: still not completely understanding what happened with the spell. There was a sleep spell that got out of hand, then B somehow directed the force into ice?

pg 11: “It’s like a dam breaking.  The water has to go somewhere. To be able to funnel some of it off into a shield?” 
--Is this literal water, or figurative? It's hard to tell with the metaphor of the dam.

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Wow, there's a lot of feedback here already. I'm going to just give my isolated reading of this without looking at other comments too much. I was also tired when I read this last time so I can read this as a "new" reader. ;) 

pg 1

-We get a lot about what is happening, but not much about T himself. A prologue PoV needs to really hook me in.

pg 2

-"Oathbrand" hooks me in, and I can immediately put together that one disappearing means someone is most likely dead. Really good handling of information here.

-The part where the talks about the damned magic is also good. Helps me see who he is and now I have something to follow. Right now this is our first real impression of the dude, that he hates magic. Should it be?

-Getting more hints about past relationships is also good. Telling us when characters hate another can be dangerous but in this case because I'm so hungry for details about this guy's history it didn't bother me.

pg 3

-okay now I'm a little less sure of my reading of the Oathbrand being tied to someone else's life if T is suspecting the duke might be alive

pg 3-6

-Not sure what these moments are doing for the larger story. Honestly I only care about the duke for his ability to set up aspects of the narrative, so spending time wondering if he can be pulled out of the rubble frankly doesn't pull me in. 

pg 7

-Okay this dynamic is interesting. T is a loyalist, and the rest are scared because of magic? That's my reading of it. If I'm getting it right, it's a good dynamic. 

-Good way of telling us the sphere is important. I'm tracking it from here on out. 

pg 8

-When B mentioned D's name, I thought he was addressing T lol. Is this the first time he's spoken so far? 

pg 9

-I have it in my mind that blond=foreigner. Is that right? If so, it's a good shorthand. 

-maybe I'm not paying close enough attention, but not totally sure what's happening with the vow. Is the duke's wife (he's married to a woman, right?) dead? Is that why one of T's loyalty brands disappeared? If so, why is T's focus on the vow instead of the loss of the duke's loved one?

pg 11

-D's dam analogy is really good 

pg 12

-Don't know what's up with the girl, or who she even really is. Last draft makes me think it's the midwife, though I could be misremembering that.

-This far in the chapter pivoting to talk about the queen is... not overwhelming, necessarily, but it's hard for me to focus on that. 

pg 13

-blood price? I'm intrigued

-wow you really made me read the sad scene with the kid again (in all seriousness this is good for setting up emotions that I assume will be explored more in the coming chapters)

Overall:

Imo the improvements really show here. In particular, I liked the fun fantasy terminology that's in here, which I don't think was as much of a focus as last time? 

We get more about the characters this time, and I think this is still the area where there's room for improvement. I get a better read on T, and his combination of loyalty to the duke and wariness + lack of understanding of magic is a good combo, since they are somewhat opposed to each other. I think we could get a bit more of both. Why is he so loyal to the duke, and where do his views and (lack of) magical knowledge come from? I got the sense that the latter was a thing for his ethnic group but idk if that's the right read. I feel like I need a bit more on most of the side characters, and I never really know who I'm supposed to be focusing on other than T and the duke, and why I should be caring about them. Oh except the kid I do care about the kid. But we learn very little about the person who's seemingly responsible for all of this and considering how T's planning to deal with her in some capacity I wonder if we should have more about her. 

In terms of cutting back, I don't think we need as much related to the large-scale politics. It doesn't seem relevant at this point what the king and queen are like, only what directly affects the plot. A couple blurbs about the king are okay, such as that he wants to rid the area of influence from certain people, but that's really all we need. Unless the queen is more powerful than I'm realizing. Also, a lot of stuff at the beginning can be trimmed, since to me it seems like the story only really get's rolling when the duke starts talking. 

Best of luck with this story! :) 

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Hi, sorry I' late to this one. I think everyone caught most of the lbl's I was going to mention, so I will just give my overall impression of this chapter. I agree that it was much much clearer than the first time reading it, and the physical spaces/realtionships and everything were a lot better to understand this time around. However, since I wasn't so focused on trying to figure out what was going on, some other problems kind of became more apparent to me. for instance, I think there is just a looooooot of stuff being introduced in this chapter, and it was kind of hard to take it all in at once, especially with all the characters, as was mentioned earlier. The talk of blood prices and judgement was still the most interesting to me, and I hope we see more of that. I also agree that I wish we had just a little more character buy in, as I feel that would help me to really take in the details, rather than have them just skim off the surface. If this truly is a prologue, I feel like a short, visceral, emotionally tense scene might be best. You could even start with the duke dying, and just explain that there had just been an explosion. But I don't know, that's just a suggestion, and I would probably still find some of the same issues with it so....idk. But overall, good job with the edits! I'm curious to see what this story will be about, as I have no idea what the main endgoal would be for this story. Which makes me curiosi! 

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